“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“What’s your dream job?”
“Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?”
These are questions that plague the formative years of children in almost every culture, especially in America (you know, the whole “American dream” thing).
And I’ve never really had an answer.
I’m not a particularly passionate person. Some have described me as cold-hearted or aloof, or even just emotionless; most don’t understand. I’m fundamentally analytic. While others are trusting their gut instinct and following their heart, I’m over here doing a cost-benefit analysis and weighing my options.
I’ve spent a lot of my life chasing this special feeling that you’re supposed to get when something is right. The elusive notion that you’ll “just know” when you visit the right college, take a few classes to decide your major, find the right job, or meet your soul mate. I kept searching and searching waiting for the “aha” moment everyone else seems to have. But I never found it. I find instead that I end up making decisions based on a logical thought process, or simply what I hate the least. Some would say I’m over-analyzing, or I think too much, or I just need to get more in touch with myself. But the truth is, if I stepped back from thinking things through in a rational manner, no decisions would ever be made.
There is a constant push to have your future completely planned out, and to have several contingency plans in place for when that original one fails. We’re taught to dream and have lofty goals. That with a little hard work and determination, we can succeed at anything. It’s a tool used in schools and businesses to establish movement, to increase achievement by students or employees. Have a 5 to 10 year plan. Set goals for yourself, and accomplish them.
I have no problem with the mechanics of this system; its effective. It increases productivity and creates manageability in tasks that seem too daunting to accomplish when viewed as a whole. However, there must be an overall idea or goal that needs to be tackled to create this system. And there must be a drive to get there. I have had difficulty with choosing things to tackle. Without a dream, where is the framework for plans and goals? Without passion, where is the drive to accomplish those goals?
The societal constructs that have created these guidelines for living are helpful to most, but have boxed someone like me in. I have always felt like something was wrong with me. Somehow, I didn’t get the system. What made people choose what they did? We’re taught to find what we love to do so “it doesn’t even feel like work.” But it always did feel like work. I was on an endless journey to find something that didn’t exist; grasping at notions that floated away from me just as quickly as they came into my grasp.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hard worker. Often I choose the path of most resistance just to prove that I can succeed. Sometimes challenge is the stimulation I need to replace the passion I lack. But I’ve often wondered what I’m missing when I simply select something and go for it.
And then I realized that the structure that I was struggling to conform to was just that: a structure. In its very essence, it is not something one should have to conform to. That defeats the purpose. You can’t force a dream or imagination. You can’t create a passion inside of you, just as you can’t conjure up a raging fire from a bucket of water.
If we’re supposed to ignore societal standards for beauty, self-image and our views of other people; why should we be expected to accept and conform to society’s parameters for success and happiness?
I simply needed to understand that my life wasn’t controlled by a set of guidelines designed for the masses.
This quote frames it well (whether Lennon actually said it or not)
Don’t let society’s guidelines tell you you’re wrong, because at the end of the day, they’re just guidelines. Find the things, relationships, and moments in life that make you happy rather than pursuing that which society tells you leads to happiness. Sometimes society is wrong.